Picturebooks in ELT

Passionate about picturebooks

Welcome to my blog about picturebooks in ELT.

“A picturebook is text, illustrations, total design; an item of manufacture and a commercial product; a social, cultural, historic document; and foremost, an experience for a child. As an art form it hinges on the interdependence of pictures and words, on the simultaneous display of two facing pages, and on the drama of the turning page.” (Barbara Bader 1976:1)

My intention is to discuss picturebooks, in particular the pictures in them! Why? Because, in ELT we tend to select picturebooks because they contain words our students might know. I plan to write something a couple of times a month, sharing what I discover in my readings; describe new titles I come across; discuss particular illustrators and their styles and generally promote the picture in picturebooks.

From January 2008 to December 2011 I benefitted from a PhD research grant from FCT, in Portugal.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My nose, your nose - celebrating individuality

One of the picturebooks I read to all my pre-school groups, no matter what, is My nose, your nose by Melanie Walsh... and in preparing this blog post I discover that it's not that easy to get hold of: only second hand copies available through Amazon.co.uk and hardback editions at The Book Depository.  But I'll post about it all the same. 
In addition to the message this picturebook carries, I think what I like about this particular title is the bright bold colours and the structural rhythm, which is very visual. 
The cover is fabulous, those two faces, simply outlined looking at each other and the title fitting snugly just above their noses.  On the back it says:  "Arthur's nose turns up. Agnes's nose turns down. But they both like the smell of chocolate cake. Spot the differences and similarities between people in this celebration of individuality." 
There's no exciting peritext and we open immediately onto the title page, showing us another of the  characters we are going to meet inside ... We know about Arthur and Agnes, and here's  Kit and later we'll meet Daisy - Negro, Caucasian, boys, girls, tall, short, curly hair, straight hair, blue eyes, green eyes - they are all different but the same too. Let's see how Walsh helps us discover this important lesson in life.
Here's Daisy in all her glory.  "Daisy's skin in brown." Those hot colours and the beach scene are natural associations to the brown skin ... I love her sun glasses!
"Agnes's skin is white."   As white as her porcelain bath, which we can see her peeking out of.  And the pink background is another association to pale skin.   "But ..." 
 "... they both have cheeky pink tongues!"  They certainly do!  
And so our celebration of individuality continues. "Arthur's hair is brown and straight." It's easy to comb, and there's a comb in view.  "Kit's hair is black and curly."  No comb in site, just a bobble hat which keeps him warm.  "But ... they both hate washday!" Poor Kit and Arthur, shampoo on their heads, glumly staring out at the reader.  
"Arthur's nose turns up. Agnes's nose turns down."  You can almost smell the cheese and socks! Yuck!  We aren't told they don't like the smells, just shown this information.  But then we are shown and told what they like smelling, emphasising the similarity. Yummy, delicious chocolate cake!
The above is a great little sequence, "Daisy has short legs.  Kit has long legs." ... and we have to turn the page over so that Kit's legs fit in.  This is a trick we saw in Small Mouse BIG CITY.  The inclusion of the kitten on each page  is a nice comparison too, she's looking up at Kit, he is BIG! 
So we've seen Daisy and Agnes, Kit and Arthur, Arthur and Agnes, Daisy and Kit.  There's a nice rhythm here, the two children shown as different, each on different spreads, then brought together with a similarity onto one spread.   Melanie Walsh uses this rhythmic, visual structure to reinforce her message, which culminates in bringing all four children together. We see a pair of children on the same spread, peeking out at us from under bed sheets.  "Agnes has blue eyes.  Kit's eyes are brown."  "Arthur has grey eyes. Daisy's are green. But ..."
Ahh!  That is so nice, and what a great way to end!  My pre-school kids usually pretend to go to sleep too and then quickly call out, "Again!".   We read this book several times over and then find things we like and dislike and similarities and differences.  

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